With the Vegetarian Festival fast approaching next Tuesday, tourism operators in Phuket are worried the unhealthy haze will hurt their business.
Haze in Phuket was reported at the highest level so far yesterday afternoon, 192 microgrammes per cubic metre, higher than the six other southern provinces suffering from the same problem -- Narathiwat, Pattani, Satun, Songkhla, Surat Thani and Yala.
Kritsada Tansakul, director of the southern chapter of the Thai Hotels Association (THA), said his agency was closely monitoring the situation in Phuket and hoping the haze ended ahead of the Vegetarian Festival.
The festival, a major tourist attraction in this province, will run from Oct 13-21.
The thick haze in southern Thailand is being caused by forest and plantation fires in Indonesia and has spread to Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.
The THA yesterday reported many tourists in Phuket could not even leave their hotels.
It estimates if the problem does end before the Vegetarian Festival begins, Phuket's average hotel occupancy rate during the nine-day event will surpass 60%.
"However, we remain optimistic about tourism in the final two months of this year, expecting average hotel occupancy for Phuket will be higher than 70%, on a par with the same period last year," Mr Kritsada said.
Phuket has 92,000 hotel rooms, up from 60,000 in 2012.
Mr Kritsada said there were some good signs for Phuket tourism, with forward bookings for November and December at 40%, up from 30-35% for the same period at this time last year.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand projects Phuket will welcome 230,000 travellers generating 3.1 billion baht in tourism revenue during this year's festival.
Phurit Maswongsa, vice-president for marketing at the Phuket Tourism Association, said if the situation could not be resolved in the next four days, forward bookings for the Vegetarian Festival could decline.
Many tourism operators in Phuket have joined hands to deal with the haze problem, with hotels handing out masks to their guests and advising them on basic practices to deal with the situation.
Ittirit Kinglek, president of the Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT), said this was the first time for Krabi to encounter the problem.
"As long as the haze does not affect flight landings and take-offs, tourism in Krabi will be affected only for a short time," he said.
The TCT is closely monitoring the situation, as it is worried charter flights from China could be affected.
Krabi has eight such charter flights a day, while Phuket sees more than 10.